Wandering the West
July 15, 2008
Park City is more of a melting pot than anywhere else in Utah. We’re nearly all expatriates from somewhere else, be it Peoria or Perth. And here we unite in pursuit of all those resort-town activities like mountain biking, golf, tennis, hanging out at the Racquet Club and using our two-fer coupons to dine on Main Street.
But you don’t have to go very far outside the city limits to find something different really different that puts you in touch with life outside the Park City cocoon. And just down the road is a whole new experience that’s a lot of fun and a world away. The Summit and Wasatch county fairs are getting near their annual weeklong runs. Being a farm-country Midwesterner, I’ve always liked county fairs. If you’ve got kids, they’re especially entertaining.
If you thought chickens just came in white feathers (or shrink wrap, for that matter), check out the poultry barns. Here exhibitors show off exotic creatures with plumage of every description. It looks like some kind of tropical bird show until you remember, after all, they’re just chickens. If you’ve never entered the swine barn, well, you haven’t experienced farm life at its fullest. Here the porkers are huge and groomed for their big moment. No mud wallowing here. Ditto for sheep, lambs, goats, cows and horses. They’re looking their best at county-fair time, no doubt about it.
County fairs offer a great way to get to meet rural Summit and Wasatch County neighbors you’d never meet otherwise. They’ll be working with their animals and they’d love to tell you all about them. Where else are you going to have a conversation with someone in eastern Summit County who lives an entirely different lifestyle than yours in mountain suburbia?
It’s not all about the animals, although they’re the centerpieces. There are the art and photography exhibits, home canning and baking and all sorts of other creations to look at as you admit you’d like to do that but don’t know how to do, or don’t make the time to do.
And the best is the entertainment. Spend a night at the multiplex when there’s the Little Buckaroo Rodeo or the PRCA Rodeo or the Demolition Derby? There’s no comparison. You can watch computer-generated mayhem at a movie, or watch the guys from Heber and Kamas smash each other’s cars for real at the Demo Derby.
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Little Buckaroo rodeos are hilarious. Everything is pint sized. Instead of bull riding or bronco busting, it’s "mutton busting" with kids on sheep. It’s hard to tell who’s more terrified of the ride the little buckaroo or the poor sheep. The Summit County Fair Little Buckaroo rodeos are Tuesday at Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. The Wasatch Fair substitutes concerts those nights instead of kid’s rodeos.
It’s hard to say what the biggest event of fair week is. Each fair has two nights of PRCA (that’s Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association) rodeos, but each also has a Demolition Derby, and Summit’s Demo Derby is already sold out. Hurry for tickets to the Wasatch derby, which you can get off its Web site. The derbies always sell out. There’s nothing more American than getting old Detroit dinosaurs and ramming them into each other. It’s a real testament to the solidity of Detroit iron that these cars can take as much abuse as they do before dropping dead.
As Utah and the U.S. population continues to urbanize and the ranches of our county convert to gated foo-foo ranchettes where no livestock graze, county fairs are a simple way to get your kids thinking what goes into the food on your table. I treasure the summer days spent as a youngster on my uncle and aunt’s dairy farm in southern Minnesota, gathering eggs, riding tractors and ponies and playing in the hay loft. We’ve gotten so far off the farm that about the only way for our kids to get anything close to that experience is a day spent at the county fair.
Free-lance writer Larry Warren has been wandering the West covering news stories for television and magazines since he landed in Utah in the mid-1970s. In this column he writes about the favorite places he goes back to when he can.
Summit County Fair: Aug. 2-9, Coalville
Wasatch County Fair: July 26-Aug. 2, Heber City
Utah State Fair: Sept. 4-14, Salt Lake City
INSIDER TIP: Eat at the fair everything from corn dogs to barbecue and Dutch Oven feasts